Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has risked incurring the wrath of supporters across the country this week, suggesting his youth players should be able to form a team in the EFL
First, his own fans, now, fans of at least 72 clubs up and down the country.
When it comes to gently riling supporters, Pep Guardiola is on a bit of a roll.
Let’s be fair to him, though. His invitation to more Manchester City fans to come to the Etihad was hardly the crime of the century and when he spoke on Tuesday night, he made it clear it was not his place to change or criticise the structure of English football.
But that was after he had suggested it would be to the benefit of the game in England if Manchester City’s young fringe players could compete, as a team, in one of the lower divisions.
He is probably right and makes his point well.
But English and British football might benefit even more if the cartel of super-rich Premier League institutions did not systematically strip the best young talent from smaller clubs up and down the land.
Since any sort of meaningful regulation was binned, the self-styled elite, such as Manchester City, have been able to raid the academies of those lower down the pyramid at will.
They stockpile the best young footballers, the allure of the club name and a good few quid proving, almost without exception, too great to resist.
Almost every club in League One and Two will be able to tell you a tale of a precocious talent being pilfered by a blue chip predator and disappearing from view.
My local club is Crewe Alexandra. They considered themselves to have a good player on their hands in academy-reared George Nunn.
Three years ago, he went to Chelsea as a 16-year-old and has made a few appearances for the under-23s and that’s it.
As Guardiola said, City’s academy is swarming with brilliance but how brilliant do you have to be to finally get a decent crack at first team football at the Etihad?
Phil Foden-brilliant is the answer.
Of course, they can go on loan, to clubs here and abroad but the treadmill of life as a junior player restricted to the odd cameo in a Carabao Cup does not develop players into hard-edged professionals.
They eventually drop down permanently and find themselves to be boys against men.
It was lovely to see a handful of youngsters in City’s thrashing of Wycombe Wanderers at the Etihad but the odds on making it there are slim.
And if you are a boy poached from an English club at a young age, there is every chance someone such as Romeo Lavia will appear as a 17-year-old foreign whizz-kid to further impair your chances of progressing.
When these boys and their families are approached by a major Premier League operation, they cannot be blamed for dreaming.
That is why Finley Burns, who played in the centre of defence for Guardiola on Tuesday, left Southend United for City as a 13-year-old.
But the irony of taking young players from lower league clubs and then bemoaning the fact that young players cannot play regular competitive football against lower league clubs is stark.
Guardiola means well but, on this one and not for the first time, is wide of the mark.